By: Dream Chimney
The following interview was conducted January 2023
Listen to the interview
Thanks for taking the time to talk. Where are you guys today and what are you doing?
SC: Hello, Happy to be here! We are split these days between Eli in upstate NY and Charlie down in Miami. Currently Eli is in the midst of wrapping up his thesis for a masters in climate science and policy and Charlie is neck deep in remixes at his home studio.
You are both from Boston. Can you paint us a picture of where you grew up and what the music scene was like there?
Boston is a small town kinda city but back when we linked up in the late 90's it was been full of record stores and an access point to a lot of rave parties. They were all going on usually outside of the city in places like Springfield MA, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Maine, Rhode Island and of course NYC. Those days there was a taste of the many sounds within electronic music culture, D&B parties, House parties, you name it! Then as we dove into the 2000's things really changed. Most of the raves dried up, the record stores closed, and electronic music became a dirty word. Most of the clubs were open format, we stuck it out with a variety of anything goes type or residencies but really in our hearts we wanted to be electronic dance DJs, and that required making music to get OUT of Boston and access dancefloors across the world.
Do you remember how you became friends? When did you first start to dabble with music together?
The story remains, we had a mutual friend who knew we were both DJs because Eli is from Cambridge Mass and Charlie is from Brookline Mass. We went to Cambridge and Brookline public high schools, but both had alternative school programs we each belonged to. One day the programs did an exchange to visit each other to see how the policies compared and that's when our mutual homie Sour Pete aka Hardcore Pete aka Vegan Pete introduced us! Turned out we had recognized each other from the rave and we started hanging and hitting the record shops together. Realizing we had so much musical taste overlap we figured out if we shared a record collection we could amass much more music, so yeah that's how Soul Clap began. It was and still is all about our shared musical library!
Where did you both play/ DJ in those early years?
The first gig as Soul Clap went down in Washington DC at a weekly party called Mandate thrown by our childhood friend Adam Friedberg. He had a promotion company called DSP aka Deservedly So Productions! He had booked Joey Beltram and we got to open for him! Later that night we played an after-hours and recorded that mix and it became the first Soul Clap mix! But back in Boston during those days Eli (as DJ Elyte) had a UK Garage and D&B night in Boston's Chinatown called Runnin'. From time to time we would get booked at Randy Deshaies Bump at the Phoenix Landing or DJ Bruno's Utopia Sundays. But really, we didn't get a regular chance to play dance music until we took over Wednesdays at the Phoenix Landing and started our own weekly with Pat Fontes (RIP) and Sergio Santos called Midweek Techno.
What kind of stuff did you play? Can you remember a record from that time and those early set?
If you listen to that first Soul Clap Mix we shared above it was a real mix of Disco House and Garage House / 2-Step that was sort of the idea, finding the middle ground between Charlie's House and funk and soul influence and Eli's background in Garage, D&B and Jazz. One all time jam on that mix that we still play today is G.O.D. Limited 1 - Inside Your Mind. What a JAM! And a perfect example of Garage meets House -
You spent a lot of time NYC. How long were you all there? Do you miss the buzz of Brooklyn?
Eli still has Black Flamingo in Williamsburg and his place in Bed Stuy. He's still very involved in the happenings in Brooklyn, even tho he mainly resides upstate. Charlie has been down in Miami almost 4 years now. He definitely miss the NY energy and all the amazing musicians and friends there, but Miami lifestyle is treating him VERY well.
Why do you think Brooklyn is so full of record labels and musos? what attracts artists to Brooklyn?
Brooklyn is so full of music and artists because its BROOKLYN! NYC is one of the worlds cultural capitals and has been that way for generations. Nuff said!
Where are you based these days exactly?
Eli is in upstate NY, Charlie is in Miami
How is it being so far apart from each other now? Do you miss hanging out?
We've actually been living in separate locales for a while now, so the distance isn't really an issue. Our brotherhood runs deep we get lots of time to hang on the road!
How often are you both together Djing?
Until very recently we've been doing 99% of the Soul clap gigs together. Our last gig together was New Years Eve at Good Room in Greenpoint Brooklyn NY and it was epic!
Going forward into 2023 that will be changing slightly as Eli has decided to pull back from air travel to focus on touring regionally by train and EV. We'll be doing a variety of residencies in regional cities like NYC, Boston, DC, Chicago + Detroit together but almost all other gigs and international gigs will be Charlie.
What kind of stuff might we hope to hear in a Soul Clap set these days? What are you playing right now?
We're still as eclectic as ever, but perhaps a bit more uptempo, and energized! We've been loving the afro and multi-culti vibes but of course are always infused with disco, funk and soul flavors, ironic and quirky edits and of course the foot is HOUSE MUSIC with a little dance floor jack and pump!
How does it work at the label. Do you both play equal parts in the workload, or do you both have different skills in your partnership?
Eli has done a lot more of the A&R over the years, but Charlie is still very much involved before we move forward with the bigger projects. These days Charlie is stepping up his A&R game, focusing especially on bringing in music for our House of EFUNK sub-label that focuses more on the house / DJ side. He just signed great records from Doc Martin and Josh Wink, two of our all-time favorites. That illustrates the differences. Perhaps Charlie has a better ear more straight-ahead club music and Eli's looking a bit more for funky and eclectic new sounds.
Soul Clap has always felt like troupe of people, even though I'm aware Charles Levine & Eli Goldstein are at the core, you seem connected with a lot of others. Tell us of this family concept and Soul Clap community?
We really owe a great deal of our internal operations to our manager Jonathan and our label manager at Soul Clap Records, Christina. Then there's Chuck -Da Fonk” Fishman, the mastermind behind the band FSQ, who was our initial bridge to all things George Clinton who has now become a dear friend and extremely important colleague. Then of course there are the long-time collaborators like Greg Paulus, Taylor Bense, Morgan Wiley, Life On Planets and some new ones like Seven Davis Jr, XL Middleton and the Illustrious Blacks. And then there are the label artists like Zeynep Erbay, Capofortuna, DJ Rocca, Lele Sacchi, Orio, Liam Mockridge and so many more…. Oh and gotta shout out our agent Mariesa from Liaison, we're working together for the second time around and have so much history together. These are some of the artists and industry that really help make the Soul Clap / Sou Clap Records machine turn!
Your new album appears to be a celebration not only of that family, but of this milestone. Tell us a little about the album in relation to the family concept?
Well, just to clarify, this isn't a Soul Clap artist album but a compilation album on Soul Clap Records. Anyways, yes this is our 11 year milestone and a simultaneous retrospective of great music in our label discography while also celebrating our incredible musical community and giving these ideas new life.
Big Congratulations on a decade of the label. You have worked together for so long. How do you keep your relationship happy and healthy?
To keep any relationship going over time you have to be patient, compromise, be a good listener, be empathic, these are all necessary and at time challenging qualities to maintain, but completely vital to happiness and stability. We also need to remain faithful that good music will prevail. There are many trends that come and go but we feel like our label is so routed in tradition that the music will eventually become timeless.
What projects are you working on that you can share?
Eli: I'm having my second kid in March! Then my master's thesis on developing a framework for a climate pledge in the electronic dance music industry is due in May and I graduate the day before our annual House of EFUNK party at Movement Festival Detroit. After that I'm finishing building and setting up my studio in my garage and getting deep on making music that connects with nature and climate action. I'm excited to be focusing on playing more around New York City and other gigs in the region that I can get to by car or train, Boston, Philly, DC, Richmond... Just building locally and enjoying my family and community.
Charlie: Yes indeed very happy for Eli to have such a blessing with his family and proud of him for his climate work! Equally excited to focus in on these “residencies” in 2023, but also very eager to get back out there on the road outside of North America and reconnect with so many wonderful parts of the world that suddenly felt quite distant due to this pandemic! So, while Eli is focused at home, I'll be out there representing for Soul Clap on the road. Also, I've been writing music and remixing like mad under my Charlie Soul Clap moniker. I've got a solo remix on our 11 year compilation, I've got another solo project coming out with Life On Planets and Greg Paulus on Nervous records, I've remixed the Kerri Chandler colas and the Moodymann colas from Louie Vega's last Expansions NYC album on Nervous, I've got an EP with Doc Martin coming out on our House Of EFUNK imprint with a collab EP with Amp Fiddler in tow… Oh and then there's the side project I've got going with Tom Trago called Compass! We're 2 releases in with a follow up EP all released in conjunction with Amsterdam's Rush Hour Records. So yeah, MUSIC continues to be what im working on!
What are next ambitions as artists?
We've also got some awesome Soul Clap original releases coming down the pipeline, definitely singles and some EPs. We also have been talking about really solidifying a Soul Clap LIVE show which is something we've dabbled with and pulled off, especially 2017 and 2022 at Movement festival in Detroit, but hasn't really been something we extensively tour. That will be an amazing next step.
If you both didn't follow this music path, what do you think you might have ended up doing instead?
Charlie: I'm so deeply committed to music its hard to say what else I'd want to do with my life, but once in Japan in a prefecture where Udon Noodles come from I saw a man stomping out the rice dough while sweating and simultaneously smoking a cigarette. That was the best bowl of Udon soup I've had and that old man had more swagger in his pinky than all of my DJ friends put together. I think I would apply to be his apprentice, but only if I could live in a tatami room.
Thank you for your valuable time.